the quagga project


quagga project news

  • February 2006

Reinhold Rau ... 7 February 1932 - 12 February 2006

"Reinhold Rau is one of the last of his breed … …". So begins the beautifully crafted article in the New York Times Magazine of 01 January 2006. In it, the author interleaves the character of the man and his adopted country with the history, scientific integrity and progress of the Quagga Project. It is an interesting read about a project that has captured the global imagination … … for its vision is the reversal of human stupidity and failings, a way to put right the wrongs of the past. Reinhold was more than your typical one-eyed conservationist, whose focus falls solely on a single species or on a single habitat. I would certainly rate him as one of the most famous of modern South African natural historians. He was not a university-trained scientist but rather a scientific educator, whose aim was to involve people in the joys of scientific exploration and discovery.

Reinhold Rau was a modest, shy and humble person, much appreciated and dearly loved by his colleagues at Iziko-South African Museum. He is not only part of the history of that institution, but also an integral part of its very fabric, for you can see his hand at work in all the displays. Born near Frankfurt (Germany) and trained as a fossil preparator at Senckenberg Museum, he joined the South African Museum in 1951. In the ensuing years he embarked on the construction of a number of major displays: reptiles, birds, fishes and mammals. It was during the latter (1969) that he re-mounted the quagga foal, the only extant specimen in southern African museum collections of an animal that had once been numbered by the thousands across the plains of the Karoo. He fortuitously collected samples of dried tissue from the foal's skin, which, together with additional tissue samples from the two Mainz quaggas that he re-mounted in 1980/81, formed the basis of the DNA analyses undertaken by the University of California (Berkley). Results from these investigations showed that the quagga was merely a southern population of the Plains Zebra. With perseverance, quaggas could be resurrected by selective breeding. This formed the scientific basis on which the Quagga Project was founded. Further details can be found on this website, which has been voted one of the best educational sites on the internet.

However, Reinhold was much more than just a "quagga man". He had over 50 scientific publications to his name. Some have to do with display techniques; some with anatomical detail and the interpretation of the fossil record; and some describe and discuss his other conservation projects: for example, his re-discovery of the geometric tortoise, thought to be extinct, and the identification of its unique habitat; or the recognition of wetland degradation on the Cape Peninsula and the ecological replacement of the Cape clawed frog (Xenopus gilli), by its more vigorous congener, Xenopus laevis. Both of these projects have led to the establishment of reserves in which the protection of the particular species is guaranteed.

Reinhold was involved with empowerment before most of us had heard of the term. In the early 60's, he was responsible for the appointment and training of taxidermists from disadvantaged backgrounds. He became extremely active in the Technical Committee of the Museums Association in order to ensure that these trainees might become fully certificated members of their trade. Likewise and for some 30 years, he was involved with the German Life Saving Association, teaching young non-swimmers the skills of survival and community service in the Athlone swimming pool.

So, do not look for the soul of Reinhold Rau among the dead - he is not to be found there; rather look for him among living things, whether these are people or tortoises or frogs. Or better still, search for his spirit in some place like the Karoo National Park, when in the cool of the evening, quaggas, which were once thought to be extinct, come to drink at the waterhole - as they were always meant to do.

Dr Butch Hulley
22 February 2006

  • July 2005

Latest (2005) Quagga DNA research results, based on small tissue samples of 13 museum specimens, confirms the subspecies status of the Quagga as obtained from tissue of one museum Quagga specimen in 1984.
Read latest Quagga DNA research results, as published online by the Royal Society in "Biology Letters", 5 July 2005.

  • February 2005

On 20 January 2005 the most quagga-like foal was born in our selective breeding programme. The striped area of its body is not only much reduced, but the body stripes themselves are considerably narrower and fainter than usual, more so than in some of the museum specimens of the former quagga population. However, there are some stripe remnants on the hocks. Such remnants are not present on the museum specimens.

Photograph of Henry


The Future of the Project

The Quagga Project, which was started 17 years ago by a group of dedicated people, has developed to the point where it should no longer remain a private initiative. The committee members are not immune to the passage of time, they are getting older. But as long as there is scientific justification for expecting further progress in reducing the striping and also in the darkening of the basic colour, this selective breeding programme must go on.

An essential part of selective breeding is the capture and translocation of specific individuals within the project zebras. These operations are time-consuming and costly, and usually beyond the means of the Quagga Project Association as a private venture. South African National Parks, who became a partner in the Quagga Project with the official signing of a co-operation agreement on 29 June 2000, and who have the necessary infrastructure, have been assisting, and will continue to assist the Quagga Project in this regard.

In accordance with the association's constitution, the office-bearers have to be elected/re-elected every three years. At the committee meeting on 30 November 2004 such election/re-election was due. Dr Mike H Knight, the Head: Park Planning & Development of South African National Parks (SANParks) was elected as the new chairman of the association. The new Vice-chairman is Mr Mike W G Gregor , CEO of Rapula Farming, including Elandsberg Farms, where our biggest zebra group is living. Miss Samantha T Wright of Table Mountain National Park, which is part of SANParks, was elected Secretary of the Quagga Project Association. Mr Reinhold E Rau of IZIKO: Museums of Cape Town remained the project's Co-ordinator. Dr P A Hulley, also of IZIKO: Museums of Cape Town will remain the association's Treasurer until further notice. Dr Hamish Robertson, IZIKO's Director of Natural History Collections joined the office bearers without a specific portfolio.

These changes, especially the more intensive involvement of SANParks were welcomed by all committee members. The continuation of this unique breeding project is now more secure. In February a one day work shop was held in Elandsberg to discuss in detail the path ahead for the Quagga project, looking to streamline operations, review the current management plan, and also speed up on delivery of the project objectives. The success of this workshop was determined by the active participation of the private land-owners and experts alike.

  • November 2004
Photograph of foal born during morning Photograph of foal born during morning

Zebra foals are usually born during the darkness of the night. However, this foal was born during the morning of 20 November 2004. Fortunately the visiting scientist, Dr Janos Gal from the Nuclear Research Station "Atomki" in Hungary had his camera ready to take these and some more unusual photographs.

  • July  2004

Since July 2003 twenty-one foals have been born in the Quagga Project. The "best" ones among these have considerable stripe-reduction on their bodies and legs. They are:

Photograph of Rebecca, F3 foal "Rebecca", 3rd offspring generation foal (F3 foal),
(from mother’s side only), of "George" and "Leslie",
born 20 July 2003.
Photograph of Butch, F3 foal "Butch", F3 foal (from mother’s side only),
of "Luke" and "Zephyr",
born 20 September 2003.
Photograph of Eric H, F2 foal "Eric H", F2 foal of "Luke" and "Mariette",
born 1 December 2003.
Photograph of Thor, F2 foal "Thor", F2 foal of "George" and "Monica",
born 2 December 2003.
Photograph of Sue, F3 foal "Sue", F3 foal (from father’s side only),
of "Etienne" and "Marjean",
born 16 April 2004, died 10 July of tick fever.
Photograph of Frank, F3 foal "Frank", F3 foal of "Etienne" and "Tracy",
born 7 May 2004.
Photograph of Marlene, F1 foal "Marlene", F1 foal of "Ike" and "Marcelle",
born 31 May 2004.

Note the difference in the extent of striping
in these seven "good" foals (above), compared to the
"bad" foal "Mathews" (below).

Photograph of Mathews "Mathews", F2 foal (from father's side only),
of "Leon" and "Ricki",
born 5 January 2004.

Parents of Mathews

His father, Leon, is an earlier son of his mother, Ricki.
Therefore, Mathews is not only Leon's son but also his half-brother.

"Leon", father of "Mathews"

Photograph of Leon, father of Mathews

"Ricki", mother of "Mathews"

Photograph of Ricki, mother of Mathews

  • June  2004

Our selective breeding, in which 128 foals have been born since the start in 1987, presents a good opportunity for observing coloration inheritance in southern Plains Zebras. Such observations are not possible in free-living, wild populations because the relationship between the individuals is not known. Plains Zebras in zoos are usually small groups only, and therefore present very limited opportunity for such observation.

Read the full progress report . . . .

Past Quagga Project News:

Photograph of Quagga poster

August 2002 - After 15 years of selective breeding in the Quagga Project, and having reached the second offspring generation, it was decided to produce a poster which demonstrates the progress achieved so far.



June 2000 - An important mile-stone in the 13 year history of the Quagga Project has been reached on the 29th June 2000. The Quagga Project Association, represented by its chairman Dr Mike Cluver and South African National Parks by its CEO Mavuso Msimang have signed a co-operation agreement.
While active co-operation between the two bodies started with the translocation of the 14 Quagga Project zebras into the Karoo National Park during 1998, the now signed agreement changes the Quagga Project from a private initiative to an officially recognised and logistically supported project.

  Quagga Project committee members
with the South African Museum Quagga Foal
Reinhold Rau, Dr Mike Cluver
and Mavuso Msimang


Information about the Quagga, needed for school projects, will be found in this website. It is not possible to answer individual school project inquiries.

Information supplied by Quagga Project Committee, Copyright© 2006

Contact person  Craig Lardner (

copyright © 2006  QUAGGA PROJECT ASSOCIATION website design & maintenance : AUBREY BYRON